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Cugoano Calls for a Righteous Empire

This extract from the Thoughts and Sentiments comes from towards the end of the book, after Cugoano has argued at length that slavery and Christianity are incompatible. Cugoano's view that the British Empire could become a force opposed to slavery may seem odd now, but it was a widespread opinion in the late eighteenth century, and one which was embraced by the British government during the nineteenth century. However, whether the British government's motives for opposing slavery then were altruistic or self-interested remains a matter for debate.

To put an end to the wickedness of slavery and merchandizing of men, and to prevent murder, extirpation and dissolution, is what every righteous nation ought to seek after; and to endeavour to diffuse knowledge and instruction to all the heathen nations wherever they can, is the grand duty of all Christian men. But while the horrible traffic of slavery is admitted and practiced, there can be but little hope of any good proposals meeting with success anywhere; for the abandoned carriers of it on have spread the poison of their iniquity wherever they come, at home and abroad. Were the iniquitous laws in support of it, and the whole of that oppression and injustice abolished, and the righteous laws of Christianity, equity, justice and humanity established in the room thereof, multitudes of nations would flock to the standard of truth, and instead of revolting away, they would count it their greatest happiness to be under the protection and jurisdiction of a righteous government. And in that respect, in the multitude of the people is the King's honour; but in the want of people, is the destruction of the Prince.

We would wish to have the grandeur and fame of the British empire to extend far and wide; and the glory and honor of God to be promoted by it, and the interest of Christianity set forth among all the nations wherever its influence and power can extend; but not to be supported by the insidious pirates, depredators, murderers and slave-holders. And as it might diffuse knowledge and instruction to others, that it might receive a tribute of reward from all its territories, forts and garrisons, without being oppressive to any. But contrary to this the wickedness of many of the White People who keep slaves, and contrary to all the laws and duties of Christianity which the scriptures teach, they have in general endeavoured to keep the Black People in total ignorance as much as they can, which must be a great dishonor to any Christian government, and injurious to the safety and happiness of rulers.

Cugoano's Thoughts and Sentiments, Penguin Edition

About this extract

Cugoano's Thoughts and Sentiments was originally published in 1787, and again in 1791, before going out of print until the 1960s. It is now available in a paperback edition with notes, index, and an introduction, edited by Vincent Carretta and available to order from: